Dying of pollen. Made a list of my enemies. Surprisingly, none of you are on it.
If you all find me dead one morning, one of these will be the cause. Goldenrod is the most likely culprit, but mornings and first pages are right up there.
Earlier this year my computer was in its death throws. I tried to fix it, scan it, even nuke it from space (reformat). Nothing worked. It happens, computers die. The problem was it was a new-ish computer and I didn’t have the money to buy a new one. As a last ditch effort I upgraded to Windows 10. In all honesty I’m not sure if that made the situation better or worse.
I have very low expectations for computers. And to be fair, MOST of the time Windows 10 works fine. It runs my programs. It saves my work. It connects to the internet. It runs Word and Minecraft.
However, Microsoft has decided it’s a great idea to let Windows 10 decide when and how to download and install its updates. For some reason, Windows continues to reset my computer without asking, and, more importantly, without allowing me to save my work. Then two weeks ago it gave me a mini heart attack. I had been writing at the time and thought I lost an hour’s worth of new words.
Thank God Above, autosave had gone off five minutes’ before the restart!
After recovering my work (and my heartrate), I noticed my computer was running slow. Turns out Windows had helpfully reinstalled all the Microsoft apps I’d removed to improve the computer’s performance, including the creepy HAL wanna-be, Cortana. So, I went back in and re-uninstalled all the damn apps and disabled Cortana.
Computer restored, I moved on with my life.
Then this Friday, it did it again! This time I left my computer on while talking with my husband, came back and it was in the middle of updating.
Very few things on Earth make me angry enough to curse – asshat computers are one of them. I didn’t lose any work, but this time I decided enough is enough. I went through all the settings, looking for what the hell was letting Microsoft update whenever the hell it wanted to.
First I discovered Cortana was back, as were all the uninstalled apps. So I, ever so calmly, uninstalled them, for like the eighth f***ing time. Then after checking it hadn’t changed any of my settings, I got to the Windows Update screen.
For those of you who have not yet discovered this yourself, let me walk you through getting there so you can see this insanity personally.
Near the ‘Shut Down’ and ‘Log Out’ buttons should be a gear marked: Settings. You want to click the gear which will bring you to the Windows Settings screen. Click ‘Update & security’ then ‘Windows Update’.
At the top of the page is your Update Status. This tells you if your computer is up to date. The part you need to look at is right beneath that. It reads:
Available updates will be downloaded and installed automatically, except over metered connections (where charges may apply).
As you can see, this is NOT an option, this is a statement of how this program works. The auto-updates are a feature, not a bug. But look beneath that and there are options. Surely there must be a way to fix it so it updates in the middle of night instead of when I’m bloody using the thing.
If you click on ‘Chang Active Hours,’ you will find the following:
Active hours lets us know when you usually use this device. When a restart is necessary to finish installing an update, we won’t automatically restart your device during active hours.
Note: We’ll check to see if you’re using this device before attempting to restart.
Right, so we already know the Note part is BS, as the damn thing restarted while I was actively typing. I’ll just change it so it won’t update while I’m awake. That should fix the problem. Would have been nice if they’d told me that initially, but whatever.
I’m a stay-at-home mom, a website editor, and a writer. I’m on my computer A LOT. So I set the little time boxes to Start Time 7am and End Time 1am, as that’s how long I am generally on my computer either actively working or listening to music while I do other things. However, when I tried to save my settings, I noticed the Save button was dithered out. Why pray tell? Well, because I’d done it wrong, said the cute little message that popped up below the time boxes:
Active hours can be set between 1 and 12 hours.
Let me repeat that.
Active hours can be set between *1* and *12* hours.
Yes you and I are both reading that right. Windows 10 doesn’t give you the option to be actively using your computer for more than 12 hours at a time.
I looked at the other options. All the other options. None of them allow you to change this. Basically, Microsoft has decided you don’t need to be using your computer all the time, just half the time. Literally HALF THE TIME.
I have no idea what to do with this information besides let others know so they can be prepared to save their work when this insane program decides it needs to update.
If anyone out there has a fix for this besides burning it and salting the earth, I would appreciate it greatly.
Title image by me.
If you know me from online or know me causally in real life, I would bet my first two character picks were unsurprising. This last one? Well….
In my life I am mostly what you see is what you get. Positive, mom-like, easily amused, and empathetic. But in the back corners of my mind and the far reaches of my subconscious is something else: Some of it is me. Some of it is monsters. All of it is dark, twisted, and unstable.
Professor Stein is all of those things as well. He is from the anime Soul Eater, which is one of my favorite animes ever. It has a very unique art style and a very interesting premise.
The main characters are students at a school run by the personification of death. Half of them have the ability to turn into weapons, the other half then wield them to defeat evil humans and witches. Their goal is to collect 99 evil souls and the soul of one witch. That will give their weapon enough power to be wielded by Death himself.
Professor Stein, as noted by his title, is not a student. He is an insane scientist who thinks the world exists to be dissected and experimented on. Nothing is off limits, even himself. Despite this he tends toward the side of good in his more rational moments. But when a great being of evil and chaos is accidently released, his madness takes over and his insanities return making him more and more unpredictable.
That sounds like me right? Don’t think so? Maybe you need to look deeper.
I have a dark side, everyone does. That bit of you that tells you to do stuff you shouldn’t. It haunts you with nightmares when you sleep. It pushes intrusive thoughts on you when you wake. It is evil to its core, but in me it’s not alone.
Some of it is monsters.
I am tormented by the duel demons of Depression and Anxiety. Not the little bits that come from being human. No, these are the freakish horrors that attacked my heart and soul for uncounted years. With the help of meds and therapy I have subdued them, but they are not gone.
This other side of me rarely comes out. Only now and then do I let anyone glimpse of what lies beneath my surface. Except in my writing. These days my characters take the brunt of my insanities. I channel my demons onto the page and there they wreak havoc on the people inhabiting my imagined worlds.
My cousin and fellow writer, AughtPunk, likes to say she is waiting for the day where I am published and on a panel at some geek writing con. My fans will come expecting some goth/gritty/grimdark person and get a cheery mom that brought cookies for all the attendees. The stories I write at first look like my polar opposite, but really they are a reflection of sinister beasts within, waiting to escape the page and my mind and torment my soul once more.
Or, you know, maybe I just like writing creepy stuff. With me there’s no way of telling for sure.
‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There is one of my favorite stories of all time. The idea that one could travel through a mirror and find another world that was slightly off from our own fascinated me. As a child I wanted to be Alice. I wanted to discover the impossible and try to understand nonsense in a way no one had before. I never grew out of those feelings.
My life has been a series of discoveries. Did you know that if you touch the seed pods on these flowers they explode? Did you know you can use a pan of fresh snow to cool off homemade fudge or frosting faster? Did you know that the way you tell if something in the sky is a star or a planet is that planets don’t twinkle?
Did you know you can make a boat out of tin foil and float it down the streams of water that form on the streets during a rainstorm? Did you know if you do that as an adult, the neighbors give you weird looks for weeks afterwards? Yeah, that last one is still an issue somedays…
Aside from finding wonder in the world around me, in the people I meet, and the art and science that ties them all together, Alice and her curious world also influenced my life and my writing in a big way.
My dreams tend to be epic adventures and the one I had in October of 2010 was no exception. I dreamed a girl found herself in a strange world, where magic powered advanced technology. I told it to my husband and he suggested I write it down, maybe even turn it into a story. NaNoWriMo was only a month away and he had friends who’d done it in the past, maybe I should try it myself.
At first I thought it was a silly idea, but the story kept following me around, poking at my brain and tickling my imagination. Who was she? Where was she? How had she gotten there? It was that last question that got me excited. Why she got there through a magic portal of course! With the support of my unsuspecting husband I began my journey. In one month I wrote 80,000 words. I wrote so much I had to get wrist braces, which luckily I don’t need anymore.
When NaNo finished, my cousin and I went to an after party event. I got people’s names and we started our own forum so we could continue our writing. It worked for a while, but I needed more help and feedback. I started following writers on Twitter. I started a writing blog. I started a writing group with my cousin, my brothers, and later my friend Erica, who I met through the group, which still meets every other week. I joined a proper forum, on some weird site called Fantasy-Faction.
Now here I am almost six years later, polishing my story, Mark of the Essence, while, and at the same time, working as the editor at Fantasy-Faction. We have been nominated and even won some amazing awards. We even published an anthology!
All the friends I have online and even some in the real world, all writing tricks I’ve learned, all the authors I’ve read and discovered, all of it is thanks to my love of Alice and her portal adventure in the realms of make-believe. As Alice said, “It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.” And I couldn’t be happier.
Today I memed. I’m going to assume that’s a word.
Over the last week or so I saw this meme pop up on both Facebook and Twitter. The idea is you pick three fictional characters that as a whole represent you. The above is my contribution to said meme. From left to right to bottom they are: Meg Murry from A Wrinkle in Time, Alice from Through the Looking Glass, and Professor Stein from Soul Eater.
In case some of you don’t know all of the characters, let me explain who they are, and why I picked them. This got long, so I’m going to do one each day. Today is Meg.
One of the biggest parts of me is my momdom (I’m sure that’s not a word.). And while I’ve been a mom for going on ten years now, I’ve been a big sister for thirty-six. I’m the oldest of five kids, but that is not where the sister/mom thing ends.
As a kid I was the oldest of my cousins in my age group (except for Katie who is still older than me :D). That made me the built-in babysitter for not only my own siblings, but whichever set of cousins happened to be in the area at the time. This in-chargeness (fine I like making up words okay?) eventually spread to our group of friends, wherein I am also the oldest, usually by at least three to four years.
All my friends called me mom. A couple of my teachers in high school and college called me mom. The kids in our neighborhood I didn’t even know called me mom. It’s a moniker I wear proudly even though I annoyed everyone I when I was younger, and continue to annoy some of them to this day.
I tried to think of a fictional mom that suited me. None of them did. They were either too perfect, too grouchy, or too grown-up. That’s when I thought of Meg.
Meg is the main character in A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. She is the oldest of four, with three younger brothers: Charles Wallace, and the twins, Sandy and Dennys. At school she is troublesome and stubborn – too smart for school but without enough savvy or charisma to skate by undetected. As such she has few friends and instead has a close relationship with Charles who understands her better than anyone else.
In the course of the story Meg, Charles, and Meg’s schoolmate Calvin O’Keefe go off on a sci-fi adventure of epic proportions. During their travels her love of her family and her stubbornness to continue to be herself, faults and all, is what ends up saving not only their small group, but possibly the universe.
As a kid I connected with Meg instantaneously. She was bad at and hated school, because of the way it was taught, not because she was dumb. She thought little of herself, but much of her family. Instead of friends she had her mother and her brothers and she would stand up for them whatever it took. They were hers and whoa to anyone who caused them pain or grief.
When I first read this book and then the rest of the series, I was in the living hell of elementary school, stuck in the dumb classes due to an undiagnosed learning disability, dyslexia, and dyscalculia (and possibly autism). I had few friends and fewer who really understood me. But I had a big family that loved me and needed me. I warded of jerks on the playground and stood up for them if they were under fire. Helping with homework wasn’t my strong suit, but I could make a mean blanket fort and I was allowed to use the stove and make cookies. :9
Elementary school melted into middle school and high school, and the threat of physical violence from other students faded with it. But I was still the built-in babysitter. I helped with problems that came up, homework questions that needed answering, made last minute Halloween costumes (I’m still doing that), and washed out cuts while applying far too many band-aids for each wound.
As the first with a car I drove everyone everywhere. As the “responsible” one I chaperoned parties, to varying success. Once my friends and family hit college I picked people up from trains and airports, helped move in and out of dorms, and drove to and from schools for weekend visits.
Now I have my own kids and I’m momming for real. And even though my boys take up a lot of my time and many of my friends are married and some even have their own kids, I still answers random questions at odd times of day, remind certain people they need to keep up with self-care, and help my brothers shop for Christmas and birthdays.
I might not always be successful, but I love my friends and family, even when they drive me insane, and like Meg, I would give up anything for them if I had too.
Today through the magic of their highly restricted internet, my three boys managed learned that there were new Amiibos coming out soon (thank you very much Nintendo in-console advertising). Amiibos, for those who don’t know, are little figures that can interact with Wii U games, in this case, the latest Super Smash Brothers. All the characters are from Nintendo franchises and so far my kids have procured quite a collection. Aside from their small plastic faces staring up at me from various places they aren’t supposed to be in the house, I haven’t had a problem with them, until today.
The newest DLC and accompanying Amiibos are Corrin from Fire Emblem Fates, a game Kid #2 is in love with, and…Bayonetta from Bayonetta and Bayonetta 2. Again, for those of you unfamiliar, Bayonetta is a gun toting witch whose outfit is made of her own hair. She is, how shall I say? Provocative. Her games are rated M for mature, for some rather obvious reasons.
The gaming community is still split on her character and whether she embodies a kickass woman freely embracing her sexuality or simply eye candy for the straight white male set. I don’t know enough about the games to have an opinion either way, though from my image search and few articles I’ve read I’m leaning towards the latter. But I’m not here to discuss who she is or is not. I’m here to discuss having to talk about men treating women as sex objects to kids young enough to not know what sex is yet.
This is not something that should need to happen. I shouldn’t have to explain to my boys that some grown-up men treat women badly and only like them because they are beautiful and not because they are nice people or smart or can do cool things. I shouldn’t have to tell them that some men are mean to women and think they aren’t as good as other men are. I certainly shouldn’t have to tell them that some men hurt women because they think they are lesser, or worse, just objects. Luckily that last bit didn’t come up, yet. But it will someday.
Today the conversation consisted of me explaining that some men were rude to women who dressed like Bayonetta and that I didn’t want them to be a part of that, even if the Smash Brothers version was toned down. After their why questions that I answered as best as I could, they insisted that they would never treat someone like that. Their sincerity made me smile, but the fact that I had to have this discussion at all made my stomach sick.
Someday I’m going to have to talk to my kids about sexism and catcalling and rape and violence against women. That makes me angry. It makes me angry that other moms and dads will have to do the same thing. And Heaven help the parents of girls!
This is not a society I want my children to exist in. This is not the reality I want them to grow up in. But all I can do about it is talk to them and help them grow up to be good people. I hope that is enough.
Since this is mental health awareness month. I figured I should share a story, I have not always been aware of my own mental health.
For those of you who are new here, I have anxiety, depression, and ADD/ADHD. Those of you who know me also know that was always blatantly obvious, to everyone but me.
I didn’t know having worst case scenario thoughts weren’t normal. I didn’t know being sad with no real cause wasn’t something people just did. I talk about my journey to get help in these two posts, but today I thought I’d share my ‘Ah Ha!’ moment with you. The moment I realized something was wrong with how my brain put thoughts together and why I was always so stressed.
It was after I’d been going to the psychologist for a couple weeks. As one of my exercises, the doctor told me to try and notice when I was having doom thoughts and making up worst case scenarios. Then I was supposed to write down the thoughts, whether they made sense, and what might be another less drastic thought that could be closer to what was really happening. I didn’t think my thoughts were that big a deal, but I was wrong.
One night, Pat stopped at his mom’s house on the way home from work, but he was there a lot longer than I thought he would be. So I called his cell. No answer. Then his mom’s house. No answer.
A normal person would think: oh they are busy talking or maybe they are outside and didn’t hear the phone ring.
My first thought? There was a gas leak and they are all dead.
My next thought (and I’m guessing your next thought) was: What? That’s crazy! Why would I think that?
That’s when I realized that every time there was a problem and I was stressed my mind came up with the worst case scenario first. And every time it did, I agreed with it right away, without giving any of the other thoughts a chance to even appear.
The most eye opening thing about the phantom gas leak thoughts were not that I was having them, but if I hadn’t been paying attention the way I was, I would have worried about it being true till Pat eventually came home. AND even though I did notice that it was a tad on the crazy side, the thought didn’t leave my brain or lose all its credence. Something was definitely not right and I needed to get it fixed.
That’s when the doctor and I decided to try medication. And it worked! Which proved two things: a) It was not my fault I was anxious, it was my brain being chemically unbalanced. b) Those doom thoughts were usually so far off base, after I was on meds, my mind wouldn’t even consider them.
Two days ago I got my meds adjusted again and I am feeling great. It was a long road to get to this point, but I made it.
If you are having problems with anxiety, depression, or anything else please consider getting help. Sometimes counseling is enough. Sometimes you need meds. There is nothing shameful in getting help. And you have nothing to gain but peace of mind.
Trust me I know.
Title image by GordanaPhoto.